Buried Child

Conflict-Causing Communication in Shepard’s Buried Child College

Conflict is inevitable in any relationship. However, if left unresolved, conflict can fester and make things worse. Sam Shepard writes plays that tackle issues with the mid-21st century American family and the American dream, including unresolved conflict and terrible family secrets. In Shepard’s Buried Child, an unnamed family struggles with conflict-causing communication styles, but when effective communication is restored, the family is able to prosper again. These five styles are denial, disqualification, displacement, disengagement, and pseudomutuality. Shelly, an outsider, is the unsung hero of the story. She encourages the family to stop using the conflict-causing communication styles and to face their problems head on.

Buried Child is structured around an unnamed dysfunctional family. Right away, audiences can see that the family is not communicating effectively, having some sort of a “pact of silence” about a serious issue (Porter 110). The audience can only hear snippets of discreet conversations because the family members are trying to pretend that a certain problem does not exist. When Vince and his girlfriend Shelly come to visit unexpectedly, Shelly sees firsthand that there is a terrible secret hidden beneath the...

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